Many writers choose a pen name for a variety of reasons. J. K. Rowling is a pen name. Robert Galbraith is a pen name by the very same author. Two different names allow for different marketing tactics. When most people hear J. K. Rowling, they hear, “Harry Potter!” When they hear, “Robert Galbraith?” they ask, “Who?”
That was purposeful. J. K. Rowling, didn’t want the works under the Galbraith name to be associated with Harry Potter. The Galbraith novels are for adults, not children, so the marketing needed to be split.
But, why J. K.?
Unfortunately, in our society there is a stigma for female authors in the fantasy and science fiction worlds. Put plainly, people buy more science fiction and fantasy when the name is male or you can’t tell the gender. It’s a sad, but true fact.
When I launched into writing two years ago, I started pondering what name I would write under. I assumed it would be my real name, Nicholas Rhodes, but that quickly went by the wayside.
To me, it doesn’t flow well for an author’s name, and I wanted to write in multiple genres like J. K. Rowling and other authors. Typically, you don’t want to use the same name across genres. Amazon and other retailers attribute a lot of marketing to the name. If you have one, and you write fantasy and self help books, they’ll be promoted together. You don’t want to promote these entirely different subjects together.
Knowing I wanted to write all over the place – fantasy, science fiction, self help, marketing, whatever my heart desires – I knew I needed multiple names.
But, that’s a pain in the…
That means multiple websites, marketing strategies, email lists, etc. Who wants to manage all of that for every single genre?
I set out on a journey to find the perfect pen name. What would display my personality and allow me to write in multiple genres?
Many were horrible examples, others were quite amusing. Unfortunately, I can’t find my chicken scratch list to share with you. Of those I remember,
Oakley and B. A. Dass
Were two of the variations. Oakley had an initial, I don’t remember what, but I ended up saving the last name because of a character it works perfectly for.
If you haven’t figured out B. A. Dass, this was a joke name to get my mind moving. Take away the periods, and smash the letters together. 🙂
I started writing down things I was interested in. Several things came to mind, specifically a few characters, and I was pretty sure my favorite tree was going to be a part of the name.
Aspect One: Willow Tree
I absolutely love willow trees. They call to me. If I was squirrel or chipmunk, I’d sit in a willow tree all day. Sometimes I act like a squirrel and try to climb one… it doesn’t work out very well.
Aspect Two: Lord of the Rings
Whatever name I was going to use, it had to resemble a fantasy element. My writing is heavily influenced by fantasy authors – Tolkien, Brooks, Anderson, and many others. I wrote down a great many words synonymous with these authors.
Shire stood out. It had a nice ring to it.
Aspect Three: Witches, Wizards, and Warlocks
I love magic and magical characters. Two of my favorite characters of all time, are straight from the screen.
Willow Rosenberg, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is my all time favorite female character in my second favorite tv show, Stargate being the first. A witch with ups, downs, lefts, and rights. I jotted her name down.
Willow Ufgood, from the movie aptly named Willow, has his heart set on becoming a wizard, and undertakes a great journey to protect a baby from the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda.
Another check for Willow.
As I reviewed my list, I noticed willow over and over. I also liked the word shire and how it sounded smashed together with willow.
This became my pen name, Willow Shire.
But, what about multiple genres, I needed to figure out a way to market without changing my name, or signing multiple versions.
I did what other authors did. Shorten, use initials, etc. I now have a marketable name that speaks to my personality. I’ve only written in the fantasy genre so far, but my marketing, natural spirituality, self help, fantasy, and other books, all have different pen names already laid out, preparing me for my future as an author.
Take some time figuring out your pen name. It doesn’t always have to be your real name, and you want to think about the potential marketability from all aspects including Amazon algorithms, personal perception, and possibly even using a completely different name, like J.K. and Robert, but most importantly, find one you are comfortable with.
Ultimately, it’s your name.
If you’re interested, check out Willow. It’s an old 80s movie created by George Lucas. Cheap effects make for great fantasy. It leaves more to your imagination.